Appropriations legislation is the gravamen of today’s Congressional action. The House and Senate currently seem to be unable to enact authorizing legislation (although Chairman Shuster is moving vigorously moving to pass the FAA Reauthorization Act), but the funds associated with Appropriations bills are essential to govern; so they are more likely to make it to the President’s desk for signing each fiscal year. The above troika of association press releases demonstrates that there are substantive sections found in the most recent Omnibus Bill. The comments made by A4A, AOPA, GAMA and the USCTA are most telling.
A4A’s lead is that the Congress did NOT add any new taxes; a not too subtle cry for the legislature to roll back the existing burden. The major airlines’ association’s President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio noted “that aviation is subject to 17 unique federal taxes, which on a typical $300 domestic ticket already total $61.” The A4A message also attacked the funding of a CPB preclearance facility at Abu Dhabi, an absurd decision by DHS.
AOPA appreciates the overall funding of the FAA budget $15.6 billion, an increase from the $15.2 billion for the prior year. Jim Coon, the GA association’s Senior Vice President for Government and Legislative Affairs pointed to $212 million for the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service, guarantees a minimum of $140 million for the contract tower program, $6 million to continue fundingthe Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, an increase to $3.35 billion for the Airport Improvement Program’s repair and improve runways. Finally and perhaps most importantly, Jim pointed to a section (it must read “no funds shall be expended to”) precluding new user fees on aviation.
GAMA, which helped spearhead the task force which redefined the Part 23 process, pointed out that Congress fully funded the Aircraft Certification Service and added language to support the positive movement of certification projects through the FAA, to wit “delays in FAA certification of new aircraft and related technologies could negatively affect aviation safety, as well as the economic health and competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers.” Also like AOPA, the GA aircraft manufacturers’ association positively called out the full funding of the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative.
The US Contract Tower Association expressed its pleasure that Congress included $140 million in full, dedicated and statutorily-protected funding for the FAA contract tower program.
Perhaps Congressional Affairs “speak” does not allow negative responses; for it is interesting that there is little commentary about the absence of full funding of NextGen. The Omnibus Bill is a stopgap funding vehicle, but the aviation community needs to coalesce in support of some agreed to package of NextGen projects. The good news from the above sampling of Washington aviation voices is that there was little discord among them.
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